NCMC implements world-class automated meat distribution system

Northern Co-operative Meat Company, Australia

One of Australia’s largest meat processors, Northern Co-operative Meat Company (NCMC), has implemented a world-first, automated meat processing, buffering, sortation and sequencing solution at its Casino-based production and distribution centre in northern NSW.

Click here to download the NCMC case study >

Northern Co-operative Meat Company

NCMC has established itself as an industry leader in meat processing, providing a unique opportunity to process livestock in world-class production and distribution facilities.

Proudly 100% member-owned, NCMC’s members are Australian farmers and businesses excelling in the paddock-to-plate philosophy.

The comprehensive materials handling project was developed in response to the increased demand for Australian red meat from Asia, and the need for Australian meat processors to improve their distribution and despatch processes, which historically have remained highly labour-intensive and inefficient. Now, with NCMC’s new automated materials handling and distribution systems – from the moment meat cartons leave the boning room – they are not touched again by hand.

Integrated materials handling systems

A network of integrated Dematic conveyors automatically transport cartons through various production processes including lidding, labelling and plate freezing, after which the finished goods cartons are conveyed and inducted into a finished goods freezer store equipped with a Dematic Multishuttle Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS).

The Dematic Multishuttle ASRS storage buffer can accommodate up to 4,300 meat cartons. It automatically builds, buffers and pre-sorts orders for distribution.

The system directs cartons to be stored in locations within the Multishuttle ASRS, to minimise carton processing and retrieval times.

When the Multishuttles are not required to fulfil orders, they undertake housekeeping, rearranging the location of cartons within the storage system to minimise order retrieval times.

“The many and varied distribution benefits delivered by the new meat buffer solution has made Northern Co-operative Meat Company Ltd more competitive and responsive to its customers, and has significantly improved working conditions for its team members,” said Soeren Schauki, Business Development Manager, Dematic.

Manual handling of frozen cases eliminated

A key feature of NCMC’s new materials handling system is that it has eliminated the need for manual handling of frozen cases.

A new automated carton lidding system also significantly improves presentation and stacking.

The new system provides full track and trace capabilities, increasing product selectivity. It also reduces the labour and time needed to sort orders, requires a much smaller system footprint, and has greatly improved product presentation, product quality, and significantly reduced product damage.

Fully automated materials handling

The benefits from automating materials handling have made NCMC more competitive and responsive to customers, and the project has significantly improved working conditions for staff.

All materials handling is fully automated and driven by smart location control and routing software, which minimises carton processing and retrieval time.

The system has resulted in the elimination of manual handling of frozen cases and provides full track and trace capabilities.

It has also significantly reduced labour and associated product damage associated with manual handling, within a compact system footprint.

Commenting on the project, NCMC’s Cold Store Logistics Manager, Greg Snow, said: “Key benefits of our new integrated materials handling systems and the ASRS is that they greatly reduce all of the manual handling we had to do previously.

“Some of our cartons can weigh up to 27 kg, so eliminating manual handling is a big bonus.

“The new systems also make it easier for us to keep track of all product movements, which has significantly improved our stock management.”

He added: “The new lidding machine and plate freezer has also made a big difference to the quality of the finished product. The results show that the product we’re creating looks a lot better.

“Our freezing capacity has increased, and the product itself is as good as it could be.”

Award-winning technology

NCMC’s world-first meat processing, buffering, sortation and sequencing solution was awarded the 2017 Information Technology and Management Award by the Supply Chain and Logistics Association of Australia (SCLAA). It also received two highly commended awards in the Supply Chain Management and International Supply Chain Management categories.

Commenting on the project, NCMC’s Chief Executive Officer, Simon Stahl, said: “We were all very excited and very proud to have been here while the project was being completed.”

He added: “I think the professionalism from our staff, from our head contractor Wiley, which was responsible for design and construction, through to Dematic, and down to all the subbies who worked on the project was terrific.”

“Of course, the project was not without its challenges, as with any project of this size, but there was a tremendous level of commitment from every party to make sure it worked, and everything was done correctly.

“I think we were demanding, and I think the response from Wiley and Dematic was very, very good.”

Dematic Multishuttle Meat Buffer System Benefits

  • Better space efficiency – One of the advantages Dematic Multishuttle offers compared to crane systems is that Multishuttle systems can be designed to fit within virtually any space, even unused headroom. Multishuttle systems also utilise the available cube more efficiently providing a higher density, more cost- effective solution. 
  • Unlimited order assembly flexibility – Multishuttle systems provide ready access to each individual carton and the SKU is automatically delivered to operations or further automation.
    No manual interaction is required. Multishuttle carts can retrieve cartons based on orders, complete sets (the complete animal) or by SKU.
    Multishuttle systems are inherently flexible and Dematic’s iQ software provides suitable algorithms for a wide variety of different retrieval scenarios. 
  • Increased system throughput capacity – Multishuttle systems can pick multiple SKUs concurrently within a single aisle, increasing system throughput and improving access to stock for orders. Accurate SKU location mapping ensures the location of each and every carton within the Multishuttle system is always known and can be queried in real-time by operations via Dematic’s integrated iQ software. 
  • Minimal customisation – Multishuttle systems require minimal customisation, reducing costs and enabling rapid installation and start-up. All hardware including storage systems, Multishuttles and software is pre-configured. 
  • Optimised operational flexibility – Multishuttle systems can operate around the clock, every day of the week, providing the ultimate in operational flexibility. 
  • Improved system redundancy – Multishuttle systems provide a high level of system redundancy. If one unit fails for any reason, the remainder of the system’s Multishuttles continue to operate independently, providing full, unrestricted access to the entire storage cube.
    Removing a non-functioning Multishuttle unit and replacing it with a back-up unit takes around 15 minutes. Even if there is a complete system failure as a result of a power outage, the system design still enables quick manual access to every single storage location, unlike crane-based systems.
  • Automated despatch labelling – Fully automated carton shipping labelling upon retrieval from the Multishuttle system can be integrated. 
  • A safer workplace – Multishuttle systems significantly reduce the need for manual handling of heavy cartons, reducing the potential for manual handling injuries. They also significantly reduce the need for pallet truck and forklift movements, further improving workplace safety. 
  • Modular, scalable, flexible solution – Multishuttle systems can be easily scaled up with the addition of extra aisles or by increasing the height or length of the system, providing future flexibility and reducing initial investment, and building/leasing costs. 
  • Rapid return on investment – Productivity savings, reduced errors, lower building/leasing and operating costs, and the reduction of lost-time injuries all contribute to a rapid ROI. 
  • Wide range of applications – Dematic’s Multishuttle system solution also offers benefits for the distribution of other meat products, such as pork, poultry and processed smallgoods

For more information on Dematic's meat buffer solutions, contact us today.

Click here to download the NCMC case study >

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